Migraine study 'opens door' to research into a cure

Woman in pain
Image caption About 14% of adults are affected by migraine

A major study into the causes of migraine could offer hope for sufferers, experts believe.

Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute say they have identified five regions of DNA containing genes linked to the onset of migraine.

Studying these could "open new doors" to understanding the causes, the Cambridgeshire-based team says.

About 14% of adults are affected by the condition - usually an intense headache at the front or one side of the head.

It is difficult to study because, between episodes, people are otherwise healthy.

The team compared DNA samples from more than 100,000 people, including those affected and healthy patients.

'Very debilitating'

They believe many of the genes associated with migraine are interconnected and could potentially be adversely affecting the chemistry of brain cells - resulting in some of the symptoms of migraine.

Dr Padhraig Gormley, who was involved in study, said: "At a fundamental biological level we really don't know what causes a migraine.

"Many people find it very debilitating, becoming overly-sensitive to stimuli such as light and sound. They find it very difficult to function and just want to lock themselves away in a darkened room.

"These five new genetic regions increase your susceptibility to develop migraine.

"There were already seven regions discovered, so we have 12 now. We think there should be many, many more, so there is still a lot of work to do."

He described the new discoveries as "very important to informing the direction of research", but said a cure, if one could be found - would be "many years down the line".

Scientists at the institute led the study as part of the International Headache Genetics Consortium.

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